United Nations – Yasmin Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), called on the international community to support efforts to promote education in crisis areas. She spoke at the United Nations at the presentation of the global fund’s annual report, titled “We Have Promises to Keep.”
The head of the UN Global Fund for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises also highlighted the report, which says ECW and its strategic partners have reached a total of nearly 7 million children and adolescents since it began work in 2017.
In 2021 alone, the organization raised more than 388.6 million US dollars and helped 3.7 million children and adolescents in 32 countries.
According to the report, half of all children reached by ECW to date were girls, and nearly 43 percent had refugee or internally displaced status.
Sheriff noted that 2021 was the biggest year for ECW in terms of resource mobilization. The organization has had to expand its efforts to try to meet the increased needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the outbreak of conflicts.
The current number of those in need is “shocking,” the Sheriff said.
In 2017, 75 million children and adolescents needed educational support. Now 222 million need help from ECW.
A recent analysis by the organization found that 78.2 million children and adolescents affected by the crisis are not in school, and 119.6 million are unable to achieve minimum skills in reading and math despite being in school. Another 24.2 million young people are in school and achieve a minimum level of knowledge, but still suffer from crises and need support.
To address this surge, ECW issued a call to action. The organization’s #222MillionDreams campaign aims to engage governments, foundations and the private sector to support the organization through financial donations.
Discussing the initiative, Sheriff emphasized the importance of education for those in conflict zones.
“222 million young people are not only suffering from armed conflict and COVID-19 and forced displacement, but on top of that they are deprived of their last hope – access to quality education.”
Access to education is important, she added, because it can change not only the lives of children and adolescents, but also the lives of those around them.
Support for ECW’s programs was also crucial, given that the organization provides psychosocial support to those in conflict zones, Sheriff noted.
“We deal with deeply traumatized children and youth. You can only imagine the excruciating pain of losing family, being taken from you, fleeing burning villages, being sexually assaulted [… ] human suffering there is much greater than we imagine. The least you can do, if you can’t imagine it, is to at least remove the financial resources.”
She noted that the global community has pledged to ensure that young people have access to education regardless of their circumstances.
“We have promised through Sustainable Development Goal 4 and through the human rights convention that every child, even if you are left behind by conflict and emergency, by climate disasters or as a refugee, we have promised them a quality education.”
The sheriff told reporters that she was confident steps could be taken to meet the 222MillionDreams goal. The organization is hosting a high-level funding conference with the Swiss government in February 2023, and it said the conversation will continue at the UN Summit on Transforming Education in September.
Above all, prioritizing education is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sheriff said.
“Education is the key to all sustainable development goals. How can we achieve gender equality without education and [end] extreme poverty? It is also the key to achieving all human rights. Without education, how can you have a free and fair trial, freedom of expression and so on? Education is the very foundation.”
Report of the IPS Office of the United Nations